Seriously, between the hen dos and the weddings and the baby showers, where are the celebrations for single women? Republished from Whimn.com.au.
A few years ago, a concept called Me-ternity leave took the Internet by storm.
The idea was simple: what if women without children wanted time off work that was a bit longer than your regular holiday. And, crucially, paid. A sabbatical of sorts, only you wouldn’t have to fight to get it. All women without children would be entitled to it, just like women about to have a baby would be entitled to maternity leave in Australia. Magazine editor Meghann Foye even wrote a book of the same name about it.
I think you can imagine how that went down. Foye’s book was crucified. Many, many women who have been on maternity leave protested that the year off isn’t, in fact, anything like a year off. It’s not a holiday, it’s not a sabbatical and it’s not a chance to focus on yourself. It’s a sleep-deprived, shitty (literally) year of becoming a mother. On occasion fun and wonderful in its own ways, yes, but not a lovely, relaxing vacation.
OK, so Me-ternity leave is a bit of a stupid name. Foye wasn’t really suggesting that maternity leave is a nice break from work for new mothers. What she was hinting at is the fact that childless women, who might need time off work as much as anyone else, don’t always get that opportunity. She was basically suggesting that everyone should be able to take a sabbatical without having to beg your employer for it.
The fight over Me-ternity blew up into epic proportions. But I don’t think anyone would argue that all women, both mothers and those without children, don’t deserve a break. It’s just that we shouldn’t equate that to parental leave. We should think of it as the burnout-avoidance tactic that we all deserve. It should be a form of leave in its own category that every woman can access.
The battle over Me-ternity leave reminded me of a conversation that I had the other day with a friend, one in which I realized how little interest society places on the lives of single women.
“I can’t come out for dinner,” my friend told me the other day. “I have to save money for this hen weekend I’m going on.”
She wasn’t kidding. She was about to embark on a three-day ‘weekend’ to Spain for a friend’s bachelorette party. This three-day ‘weekend’ involved more activities than a cruise ship: paella-making classes, hikes up a steep incline of some description, live drawing, games the likes a child’s birthday party had never seen before and, of course, the drinking. They were planning to drink the entire country of Spain completely dry of sangria, vodka tonics and rose. The whole thing was going to cost more than $1000. And that’s just the hen do, we’re not even talking about the wedding here.
$1000. $1000! A bride was asking my friend to pay $1000 – more than, actually – on her bachelorette party. Then she was asking to spend money on attending her wedding, buying a present, maybe even splurging on a new dress and heels. (There was a kitchen tea as well. At least the gift at that one was only a few cartons of alfoil.)
The problem is twofold. The first is that the ceremony around weddings, and in particular bachelorette parties, has blown wildly out of proportion. The average wedding in Australia now costs more than $65,000, which should give you an indication of how much the hoopla around it has started to rack up. A hen do that costs $1000? Starting to sound like a bargain, really.
But the biggest problem is that $1000 hen dos, and extravagant kitchen teas, and engagement parties, and big, blowsy weddings, and baby showers, and first birthdays (and second, and third and so on and so forth), are occasions to, mostly, celebrate women in relationships. Sure, a woman can have a baby on her own and single-parent families in Australia do represent 10% of all households. But, on the whole, these functions are opportunities to spend vast, exorbitant amounts of money on people in relationships.
So, what about single women?
Don’t get me wrong, I love spending money on my friends. I love nothing more than a good wedding, one at which I can sob into a handkerchief as two people I love so dearly get to make a commitment to one another. I love drinking sparkling wine by the bottle-full and eating chicken or fish and those tiny little canapes. I love dancing to ‘Get Low’ at 11 in the evening. I love my friends with children and I love spending money on them. I love to go wild in a Petit Bateau store in Paris and buy dozens of striped ensembles for my goddaughter. I love sending them birthday presents from London, like a cool, cultured Aunt.
I love doing all of these things. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that, as a single woman, my friends rarely spend money or time celebrating me. Yes, there are birthdays. But when was the last time you spent $1000 on a 30th or 40th birthday? I’m not talking about massive holidays away and 30ths spent on a beach somewhere in Italy eating pasta under the stars. That’s different. I’m talking about asking someone to spend a cool K on a boozy dinner somewhere. Rare, right?
Single women get the raw end of the stick on so many occasions. They don’t get to split the bill with anyone when it comes to holidays, nice fish dinners, apartments, the weekly shop. And now they’re being asked to constantly output the cash to celebrate their friends in relationships, when there’s a chance they may not ever experience reciprocity. It’s not that I don’t think my coupled-up friends would love to spend the kind of money on me that I’ve spent on them, I think they would leap to the occasion. But what if I don’t meet someone and get married? What if I don’t have kids? The opportunities for celebrating you and your life when you’re single are few and far between.
It reminds me, as so many things do, of a particularly good Sex and the City episode. You know the one: Carrie heads to a friend’s baby shower and is asked to leave her Manolo Blahniks at the door to the apartment. Upon leaving, she discovers in horror that her shoes have been nicked unceremoniously. Carrie’s friend offers to pay for the missing shoes until she hears the price, and then she balks at such luxury. But, as Carrie rightly points out to the girls over brunch, she has outlaid hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars on that friend over the years on weddings, bachelorette parties, engagements and christenings. What’s one pair of shoes?
We all know how the episode ends: Carrie sets up a wedding registry for herself at Manolo Blahnik containing just the one pair of shoes and, finally, she gets to celebrate herself for a moment. Re-watching that episode the other day I got to thinking… Maybe I should do the same.
Featured image via unsplash.com.
This article was republished from Whimn.com.au with full permission. You can read the original article here.
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